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How to Navigate Times Square Like a New Yorker

July 18, 2018 by Michael Gioia
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There are 40 theaters in New York City’s 13-block theater district from 41st Street to 54th Street. (Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont marks the Great White Way’s 41st home, a subway ride away to 65th Street.) With so much to do in the heart of Times Square — making midtown Manhattan one of the most congested spots in the city — it seems impossible to pick up your tickets and make curtain time when you’re fighting the massive crowds. Here is a quick guide to navigate the streets like a true New Yorker and make it to your seat with time to spare.

Avoid Times Square!
Whatever you do, stay away from the middle. Along Broadway, from 42nd Street to 47th Street, the sidewalks are flooded with headless Elmos looking to swindle you into a souvenir photo and tourists gazing at the city’s oversized buildings. Just avoid this entire stretch — unless you really want a touristy photo. In that case, don’t attempt right before showtime, as it’s extra crowded then.

Walk the outskirts.
Most Broadway theaters are between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue. Walk along 8th Avenue if you’re seeing a show at the St. James, the Majestic, the Golden, the Bernard B. Jacobs, the Al Hirschfeld, the Brooks Atkinson, the Samuel J. Friedman, the Longacre, the Eugene O’Neill, the Circle in the Square, the Gershwin, the Neil Simon, the August Wilson, or Studio 54. Strut down 6th Avenue for performances at the Stephen Sondheim, the Belasco, the Lyceum, the Minskoff, the Marquis, the Palace, the Cort, the Winter Garden, and the Broadway Theatre.

Only cut to your theater once you hit the street it’s on. You’ll save time by avoiding Times Square (see Tip 1). If you’re feeling extra adventurous, walk along 9th Avenue — you may stumble upon a delicious restaurant or even spot your favorite Broadway performer!

Know the shortcuts.
Another trick to avoid the onslaught of crowds in the center of the city is to cut directly through the streets! Starting on 44th Street, walk between 8th Avenue and 7th Avenue to find Shubert Alley or the Minskoff Theatre underpass, which both take you from 44th Street to 45th Street. Now that you’re in the middle of 45th Street, walk through the Marriott Marquis underpass to get to the middle of 46th Street. At 46th Street, cut through the entrance to the Edison Hotel to walk through the lobby and exit on the other side. For the next few blocks, you’ll have to return to 8th Avenue if you must go further, but once you hit 50th Street, you can pass through the underpass by the Gershwin Theatre and the Circle in the Square to get to 51st Street.

Hit the Subway.
Subway entrances to the C, E, 1, 2, 3, N, Q, R and W trains are on or near 42nd Street, but you can exit at 44th Street or 40th depending on where you’re going. The C, E and 1 trains will take you to 50th Street, and the N, R and W trains will let you off at 49th Street or 57th Street. For theaters closer to 50th, take the train. And if you’re going direct to Lincoln Center, ride the 1 to 66th Street.